Category Archives: Fire Updates

Smoke from Western Fires Fuels Dangerous Air Quality | Corona, CA

Over 90 large fires across seven states are triggering alerts over poor air

By Zach Rosenthal | September 13, 2022 at 1:56 p.m. EDT

Dangerous blazes continue to spread across the West, with 93 large fires burning in seven states.

As smoke plumes rise into the skies, alerts for hazardous air quality are in effect in parts of Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. A special weather statement about hazardous air quality was also issued in east-central California and western Nevada. The smoke is most dense and toxic near its source but has also expanded in lesser amounts all the way to the East Coast.

Idaho — where the Moose Fire, the nation’s second largest, is burning — leads the pack in terms of large fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Firefighters are battling 34 large fires in the state, followed by 23 in Montana, 13 in Washington, 12 in California and nine in Oregon. Utah and Wyoming each report one large fire.

In Oregon, eyes are on the Cedar Creek Fire, which has grown to more than 86,000 acres after being sparked by lightning Aug. 1. After days of extreme fire growth, the fire remains uncontained. The rapidly spreading blaze has forced nearly 1,500 evacuations, while blanketing nearby cities such as Bend in dangerously high levels of smoke. Smoke from the fire has prompted alerts in south-central Oregon.

Firefighters are also battling the massive Double Creek Fire in Oregon, which has burned more than 155,000 acres and is currently the nation’s largest blaze. That inferno has prompted the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to issue an air quality advisory for the northeastern parts of the state.

Fire and heavy smoke conditions in the West are unlikely to abate anytime soon, as hot and dry conditions have left forests ripe for fire growth. Red-flag warnings have been hoisted for much of eastern Wyoming because of hot, dry conditions conducive to fires.

Hazardous air quality conditions — air quality index (AQI) levels of 301-plus — have been observed in at least five states, including California, where the Mosquito Fire continues to burn between Sacramento and Reno, Nev., in the Sierra Nevada.

The Mosquito Fire has forced officials to evacuate more than 11,000 people. At least 25 homes have already been destroyed by the blaze, which has torched more than 48,700 acres and is just 16 percent contained.

Other active and dangerous fires in California include the Fairview Fire, which still burns close to the town of Hemet, though it is now 56 percent contained. Downpours from the remnants of Tropical Storm Kay have assisted crews in containing that blaze. That fire has burned more than 28,000 acres and killed two people who were trying to flee the blaze.

As more fires in the West are ignited and active fires expand, the smoke can travel as far as the East Coast and in the past has even blown into continental Europe. Wildfire smoke has been found to be surprisingly harmful to people even far from the source. A study published in 2021 found that three-quarters of smoke-related cases of asthma visits to emergency departments and deaths occurred east of the Rocky Mountains.

“Smoke is not just a Western problem,” said Katelyn O’Dell, lead author of the study and postdoctoral research scientist at George Washington University.

O’Dell suggested there may be a “lack of awareness” in the East about the effects of smoke, “because you’re not in proximity to these large wildfires, and they don’t really impact your day-to-day.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described an “expansive area of light smoke” covering most of the Lower 48 state, except for the far southeast and far southwest on Monday. However, computer simulations indicate much of the smoke in the eastern United States is at relatively high altitudes, meaning it shouldn’t substantially compromise air quality near the ground. But NOAA reported some “moderate to thick smoke” had already reached as far east as Colorado, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.

AirNow.gov, which monitors pollution across the country, showed air quality had worsened to “moderate” in portions of Colorado, including Denver, as well as northern Minnesota and western Iowa on Tuesday.

A total of 49,820 wildfires in the United States have burned 6,726,028 acres this year; both of these numbers are ahead of the 10-year average through Sept. 13.

Research has shown that human-caused climate change has contributed to an increase in the frequency of large fires and the size of the area burned by Western wildfires, as fire seasons become longer and more dangerous.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

For more information about fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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Fire burning near Castaic shuts down 5 Freeway, prompts evacuations amid triple-digit heat | Corona, CA

BY CHRISTIAN MARTINEZSTAFF WRITER | AUG. 31, 2022 UPDATED 5:20 PM PT

A wildfire near Castaic prompted mandatory evacuations and the closure of all lanes of the 5 Freeway on Wednesday afternoon as triple-digit temperatures hit Southern California.

The Route fire was first reported just after noon and was burning along the freeway near Lake Hughes Road, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

By 4 p.m., the fire had grown to nearly 250 acres as authorities ordered evacuations for the Paradise Ranch Estates mobile home park and structures south of Templin Highway, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

“All residents ordered to evacuate to the north,” the department said in a tweet.

Northlake Hills Elementary School, located between the 5 and Ridge Route Road, was also being evacuated, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

Sheriff’s deputies were reportedly helping 10 staff members and students off the campus, Barger said in a tweet around 4:45 p.m.

Two firefighters were transported to a hospital with minor heat-related injuries, the Fire Department said.

Temperatures in the area reached nearly 110 degrees by midday with 12% humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

All lanes of the freeway were closed with southbound traffic being diverted at Vista Del Lago Road and northbound traffic being diverted at Lake Hughes Road, according to the California Department of Transportation.

Footage from KTLA-TV Channel 5 showed flames on both sides of the southbound lanes with smoke rising from rolling, dry hills. The southbound and northbound lanes are separated by a large hill.

A large tanker could be seen dropping fire retardant along the fire line.

For more information about fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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California’s Oak Fire destroys at least 42 structures as it burns more than 18,000 acres near Yosemite National Park | Corona, CA

By Elizabeth Wolfe and Steve Almasy, CNN | Updated 8:29 PM ET, Wed July 27, 2022

(CNN)California’s Oak Fire has burned through more than 18,000 acres and destroyed more than 40 structures since it ignited near Yosemite National Park Friday, as fire crews in the air battle visibility issues and personnel on the groundwork steep terrain.

The fire grew only slightly Tuesday — to 18,532 acres and containment remained at 26%, according to an update from state fire management agency Cal Fire.

“Although good progress continues on the fire, there is much work to be done,” the update said. Officials said several evacuation orders had been changed to fire advisements.

Some areas are not accessible to bulldozers so crews on foot cut in a fire line, and smoke from the fire hampered the response from the 24 helicopter units involved.

One firefighter stood Wednesday morning by a spot where they had been able to stop the flames from advancing.

“For the past two days what we’ve been doing is coming back with hoes and … hand tools. We dig out all the smokes and hot spots to make sure that nothing ends up on … the green side (where vegetation wasn’t burned),” firefighter Travis Gooch told CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus. “It’s kind of a relief that everything is kind of looking like it’s holding up the way it’s supposed to.”

Gooch, who is from Manteca, said he and his team work overnight and slept for about an hour on their firetrucks.

“The first night we were here, no one slept,” he said. “So, last night to get to sleep for an hour. It was nice. Everyone is looking forward to going back to camp and getting to sleep for today.”

There have been no firefighter injuries reported since the blaze began, the cause of which is under investigation.

A total of 42 single residence structures and 19 outbuildings have been destroyed in the fire, the update said. More than 1,100 structures remain threatened.

On Tuesday morning, Cal Fire officials said in the overnight incident report: “Fire crews continue providing structure defense, extinguishing hot spots, and building and improving direct lines. Persistent drought, critically dry fuels, and tree mortality continue to contribute to the fire’s spread.”

More than 3,000 personnel are tackling the fire, deploying air and land efforts including two dozen helicopters, 286 fire engines, 68 water tenders and 94 bulldozers, according to Cal Fire.

The challenging terrain and abundant dry vegetation fueling the fire has complicated efforts to tamp down its growth, Cal Fire spokesperson Cpt. Keith Wade told CNN Monday.

“The footprint out here, the acreage of available fuels to burn when the fire gets going, along with the available topography — the canyons, the drainages — the wind that flows through these areas, can make the fire behavior erratic and it can explode … the ferociousness of that fire at times can be intense,” Wade said.

The Oak Fire is the largest of California’s fire season so far, Cal Fire data shows. But it remains relatively small compared to other California wildfires in recent years: It’s dwarfed, for example, by blazes like last year’s Dixie Fire, which consumed more than 960,000 acres, or the August Complex Fire the year prior that scorched more than a million acres — the state’s largest ever.

There have been 23 wildfires in California so far this month, according to Cal Fire, but only three have exceeded 500 acres. None have come close to the mass destruction of the Oak Fire, due in part to the exceedingly dry conditions in the area, Wade said.

“I think the real difference that firefighters are experiencing on this one is how dry everything is, it’s definitely been (drier) as the years have been going on,” he said. “We’ve noticed that there seems to be less precipitation, less moisture and the available fuel load is definitely out there.”

The fire’s rapid growth has also made evacuation efforts more difficult, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jon Heggie told CNN on Monday, noting officials and law enforcement are doing their best to notify residents when they need to leave.

“The reality is, it’s moving so quickly, it’s not giving people a lot of time and they are sometimes just going to have to evacuate with the shirts on their back,” Heggie said.

The incremental progress made by fire crews has allowed officials to reduce evacuation orders in some areas to fire advisements, Cal Fire said.

An evacuation shelter has been set up at Mariposa Elementary School for displaced residents.

Mariposa County has been under a state of emergency since Saturday, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the proclamation.

Southern California fire officials have been expecting this summer to bring an especially challenging fire season due to the increased frequency of wildfires and the dry, hot conditions in much of the state.

Heggie attributed the Oak Fire’s “velocity and intensity” to the state’s prolonged drought and human-caused climate change.

“What I can tell you is this is a direct result of what is climate change,” he said. “You can’t have a 10-year drought in California and expect things to be the same. And we are now paying the price for that 10-year drought and that climate change.”

California is among the western states that have been suffering under a prolonged megadrought that has been heavily exacerbated by the climate crisis.

“That dead fuel that’s a result from that climate change and that drought is what’s driving these, what we are now calling, ‘mega fires,'” Heggie said.

It’s not just the Western US dealing with extreme fire conditions. Wildfires around the globe have intensified and become more commonplace, according to a report from the UN Environment Programme. The report’s analysis found the number of extreme wildfire events will increase by 30% by 2050.

The report suggested it’s time we “learn to live with fire,” urging authorities and policymakers to cooperate with local communities to use Indigenous knowledge and invest in planning and prevention efforts.

CNN’s Poppy Harlow, Taylor Romine, Stella Chan, Sara Smart and Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.

For more information about the Oak fire, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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The Almost 900-acre Sheep Fire Is 85% Contained, Evacuations Lifted | Corona, CA

BY HAYLEY SMITH, GRACE TOOHEY | PUBLISHED JUNE 14, 2022 UPDATED JUNE 15, 2022 10:47 PM PT

Crews seem to have turned a corner on the almost 900-acre wildfire burning near Wrightwood in the Angeles National Forest, with the blaze 85% contained Wednesday night.

The Sheep fire, which ignited Saturday, exploded in size through Tuesday, engulfing 865 acres and prompting evacuation orders and warnings for residents in the area.

All evacuation measures, which had been in place since Sunday for communities in and around Wrightwood, were lifted Tuesday evening, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District.

“The threats to the communities are gone, for now,” said Joe Rosa, the public information officer for California Interagency Incident Management Team 14, which has taken command of the Sheep fire. But he said a shift in weather — though not predicted for the next 24 hours — could change that risk.

Firefighters continued to increase containment of the blaze, according to a statement by the Angeles National Forest late Wednesday night.

“Earlier today, hotshot crews alongside helicopter water drops were able to extinguish a few hotspots near the south end of the fire,” the statement read. “While infrared flights continue to show scattered heat and interior heat within the fire perimeter, some remaining interior heat islands are expected to burn out.”

Crews were to continue searching for hotspots and monitoring fire behavior overnight Wednesday, according to the statement.

Rosa said about 600 firefighters continue to battle the blaze. The reported size of the fire, 865 acres, is down from initial estimates of 990 acres. Rosa said better mapping Tuesday night provided a more accurate scope of the fire.

“The biggest challenge throughout this whole incident has been the winds, and some of the topography,” Rosa said.

He said that because of cliffs and unstable rocky spots, it hasn’t been safe to put crews on the ground in some areas of the fire, which correspond with many of the areas not yet contained.

No structures have been damaged or lost in the fire, Rosa said. Officials with the state Department of Transportation worked to replace some guardrails along Highway 2, and crews with Southern California Edison are expected to replace some damaged poles Thursday, Rosa said.

Earlier Wednesday, Caltrans reopened the closed portion of Highway 2 between Wright Mountain Road and Desert Front Road, according to the Angeles National Forest’s statement.

“Fire crews and cooperators will continue to work near the roadway, please use caution when driving through the area,” the statement read.

Since Saturday, officials described a challenging firefight with dense vegetation, steep terrain and high and erratic winds, made more difficult by soaring temperatures and a drought-dried landscape primed to burn.

By Tuesday, conditions became a bit more favorable, said San Bernardino County Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike McClintock. He said reporting crews were no longer seeing active fire growth.

But high temperatures and potential winds could remain a threat for the Sheep fire, said Miguel Miller, a forecaster with National Weather Service in San Diego, which covers the San Bernardino area.

“Right now it’s kind of a good news, bad news,” Miller said Wednesday. “The bad news is it’s quite hot and quite dry over that fire right now. The good news is the winds are quite light.”

Miller said that heat, with highs expected around 90 degrees near the fire, is expected to last through Thursday, until an expected low-pressure system moves in Friday. He said that although that system could bring lower temperatures and more humidity — good for the firefighting — it could also bring much stronger winds, an added challenge.

Rosa said he is hopeful the weather will cool off and winds won’t get too bad, which will “help get crews into place to get this thing wrapped up here, hopefully before too long.”

Rosa’s team has estimated the Sheep fire will be contained by June 22, though he said that could quickly change depending on a number of factors.

“Crews are making really good progress,” Rosa said. “The crews that were initially on scene and worked this fire … did a phenomenal job keeping the fire where it’s at. They did really good work to keep the fire spread at a minimum.”

The South Coast Air Quality Management District had issued a smoke advisory warning of potentially unhealthful conditions in areas near the fire, but that expired Tuesday night.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, the Forest Service said.

Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.

For more information about the Sheep fire, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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California warned of critical fire weather danger as interior swelters in high heat | Corona, CA

A large swath of the interior of California was warned of wildfire danger and high heat on Tuesday.

Red flag warnings of critical fire weather conditions were in effect in the Sacramento Valley and foothills of the coastal range and the Sierra Nevada due to northerly winds and low relative humidity, the Sacramento weather office said.

The National Weather Service also said much of the same area would be under a heat advisory from noon Tuesday until 11 p.m. Wednesday. Predicted high temperatures ranged from 95 degrees to 105 degrees.

Heat advisories will extend south through the San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday.

“Today into Wednesday the weather will be hot, dry and windy,” the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office tweeted Tuesday. “There is a Red Flag Warning in effect through Wednesday morning.”

The San Francisco Bay Area was not under the advisories, but forecasts called for hot and dry weather Tuesday, with near-critical fire conditions in the North Bay interior mountains and the East Bay hills.

Tuesday, Southern California fire investigators were seeking the cause of a blaze that destroyed a large home and five rental cabins near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains.

About three-quarters of an acre burned in the Hook Creek area on Monday, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said in a statement.

The two-story home and the cabins were vacant at the time, and there were no injuries to firefighters or citizens, the department said.

Last week, a fire near the community of Dunnigan, northwest of Sacramento in Yolo County, surged through 120 acres of grassland before it was contained Friday afternoon.

In the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Golden Fire prompted some evacuations and closed State Route 49, known as the Golden Chain Highway, south of the small town of Camptonville.

Yuba County authorities said the fire reached 26 acres before it was stopped from spreading and was 20% contained. The fire started in a building and spread to the wildlands, authorities said. No other buildings were damaged.

Tahoe National Forest reported that federal, state and local crews were battling the flames.

And on May 11, a destructive wildfire erupted in the coastal community of Laguna Niguel, burning at least 20 multimillion-dollar homes as it grew to 199 acres.

Various utilities’ electrical equipment has repeatedly been linked to the ignition of disastrous California wildfires, especially during windy weather. Southern California Edison has advised state utility regulators that unspecified electrical “circuit activity” occurred around the time a destructive wildfire erupted in the coastal community.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For more information about grilling fire safety, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

What Winter’s Dry Spell Means for California’s Fire Season | Corona, CA

This winter’s extreme rainfall and dryness might average out to near-normal levels of precipitation. But that’s no insurance policy against fire, scientists say.

By Livia Albeck-Ripka | March 1, 2022

When rain pummeled California in October, many breathed a sigh of relief: At least in some parts of the state, the worst of the fire season, experts said, was most likely over. The following month, however, precipitation was scarce. In December, it rained again, smashing records. Now, some parts of the state have barely seen another drop of water since early January.

“It has been both an unusually dry and an unusually wet winter,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Nature Conservancy.

But what do these ups and downs mean for California’s next fire season? The answer is complicated. Before October, a vast majority of California was considered to be in “exceptional” or “extreme” drought (the highest rankings, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor). So, when meteorological conditions known as “atmospheric rivers” drenched parts of the state in October and December, much of that water was sucked up by the parched landscape.

The hot and windy conditions that followed also led the rain to evaporate quickly, drying out the vegetation that fuels fires. California’s rising snowpack, which provides moisture to the ecosystem as it melts in the spring, has since plummeted.

Historically, California’s fire season lasted a few months during the hottest part of the year. But recently it has become more year-round. In January, typically one of California’s wettest months, a wildfire swept through Big Sur, a mountainous coastal region south of San Francisco, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. The scene was “pretty surreal” given California’s wet October and December, the National Weather Service said on Twitter at the time.

But though the extreme rainfall and dryness might average out to near-normal levels of precipitation, that’s no insurance policy against fire, scientists say. As global temperatures warm, even in wet years, hot weather can ultimately dry out vegetation to produce droughtlike conditions.

“We still get dry years and wet years, but we don’t really get cold years anymore,” Swain said. He added, “No matter what, everything still dries out.”

For now, the dry spell has a small silver lining. The lack of rain gives fire authorities more opportunity to conduct prescribed burns that help to reduce the worst impacts of fires during the summer. And fires that ignite spontaneously during these colder months are also likely to be less intense, and can help to avert worse fires in hot, dry conditions. But without rain in the coming days or weeks, the state could begin relapsing further into drought. Last year, historically low rainfall and ongoing drought helped cause a brutal fire season that lasted several months and burned 2.6 million acres.

“I don’t think March is going to somehow bail us out,” Swain said of the likelihood that generous rain in the coming weeks would help stave off intense fires this year.

“We’re seeing bad fire years almost every year,” he added.

For more information about CA fire season, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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Huntington Beach Firefighters Battle 2 Separate Structure Fires at Condo Complex, Historic Site | Corona, CA

BY SARA CARDINE | STAFF WRITER FEB. 25, 2022 5:50 PM PT

Huntington Beach firefighters were kept busy Friday morning, as one blaze damaged a building on a historical property off Warner Avenue and a four-alarm fire displaced five residents at a gated condo complex on the city’s south side.

Jennifer Carey, the city’s public affairs manager, said a call came in shortly after 10:45 p.m. Thursday at Seabridge Village, a gated residential complex on the 20100 block of Sealpoint Lane, where a fire that started in the garage of a three-story unit had extended to other residences.

More than 60 firefighters — including some from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Orange, Anaheim and the Orange County Fire Authority — responded to the four-alarm fire inside the complex, according to Carey. It wasn’t until about 2 a.m. that the last flames were doused.

No injuries were sustained but three separate units were damaged during the incident, and at least five adult residents were displaced after their homes were declared uninhabitable, Carey said. Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the victims.

A second report of a fire was logged by HBPD shortly before 9 a.m. Friday at the intersection of Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane, on a property that has been identified by local preservationists as a place of historic significance.

The 4.4-acre parcel contains several buildings with ties to the city’s early Japanese American history, including the former Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church — founded as a mission in 1904 — a barn and three residences that date as far back as 1912, when Japanese native Charles Mitsuji Furuta (1888-1953) built a home for his family, according to a historical report filed with the city in 2002.

At Nichols Lane and Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach lies the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, founded in 1904.

An abandoned church at Nichols Lane and Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach is the former site of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, founded in 1904. A fire broke out in a building near the church Friday morning.

Members of the Furuta family in 2004 sold the property and the six structures on it to Rainbow Environmental Services, now Republic Services, which at one point was interested in selling to a self-storage company.

Although the city created the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force in 2012 to collect funds for the relocation or restoration of the site, the group was disbanded by the Huntington Beach City Council five years later without having attained its goal.

Carey said Friday firefighters responding to the incident noticed a fire had broken out in an ancillary building adjacent to the main church building. They were able to put out the blaze in about 20 minutes, preventing flames from reaching the other structures, including the church.

Separate investigations into what caused the two structure fires are currently underway.

For more information about fire news updates, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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Mr. T’s Restaurant Building in Downtown Riverside a ‘Total Loss’ After Latest Fire | Corona, CA

By BRIAN ROKOS | brokos@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise

The latest fire at the iconic but shuttered Mr. T’s restaurant in downtown Riverside might be its last.

More than 30 firefighters battled the blaze at 4307 Main St. after it was reported at 6:29 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Firefighters quickly searched the building and didn’t find anyone. By 10:30 a.m., Riverside city code enforcement officials and the owner were making plans to knock the chimney into the structure so it wouldn’t fall on anybody.

“The structure is severely compromised. This building is a total loss,” Battalion Chief Bruce Vanderhorst said.

It was the fourth or fifth fire at the A-framed restaurant, he said, adding that it closed around 2019 after a kitchen fire. The city in 2020 issued a permit to the owner, listed as J & P Canaan, to fix the damage. But that permit expired without any repairs being performed, city spokesman Phil Pitchford said.

The building was later boarded up, but that didn’t prevent break-ins. Tuesday, Vanderhorst said he asked for police to respond quickly when a transient tried to re-enter the building to retrieve his belongings.

An arson investigator determined the fire was not intentionally set, but the exact cause was listed as undetermined, Vanderhorst said. No one was reported injured. Main Street was closed for hours after the fire between 12th and 14th streets.

The 1,958-square-foot, $35,000 building opened as an International House of Pancakes, according to the building permit issued in 1963. It was unclear Tuesday when the name was changed to Mr. T’s.

Vanderhorst said firefighters from the downtown station sometimes drove their rigs to the restaurant and ate Sunday breakfast there. It was a popular gathering spot for attorneys because it was a short walk from the courthouses, said former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.

Pacheco, who now is a practicing attorney, described the fire as “sad news.”

“It was close, a good, solid breakfast, and the price was always right,” Pacheco said. “There were other places to eat and for some reason, we gravitated toward it.”

It was at Mr. T’s — over breakfast with a Press-Enterprise reporter in 1995 —  Pacheco said he kicked off his successful campaign for state assembly. Pacheco learned that a candidate had dropped out, and Pacheco decided to run. He won, serving three two-year terms representing the 64th District that encompassed Riverside, Jurupa Valley, Norco and downtown Corona.

Staff Writer Fielding Buck contributed to this story.

For more information about CalFire map updates, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

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After years of delays, CalFire says updated and expanded wildfire hazard maps are on their way | Corona, CA

Chris Nichols | Monday, December 20, 2021 | Sacramento, CA

For years, state officials have promised and failed to update maps that show the parts of California most at risk for wildfire. In the more than a dozen years since current maps were released, climate change and climate science have dramatically adjusted our understanding of what might burn.

Now, state officials say the long-awaited updates will land in the next few months.

The stakes for the new fire risk maps are high. Local governments use CalFire’s hazard zones as a guidepost in deciding where new homes and businesses should be approved — or rejected.

Homeowners who live inside high risk zones have to disclose that risk when they decide to sell. They also are required by a new state law to keep their homes fire-proofed — by building out defensible space. The number of homes in those high-risk areas has grown in the last decade. The state’s wildfires now regularly set records in size and destruction. “Fires are burning in ways that nobody has seen before,” said CalFire Chief Thom Porter at an August news conference. “Yes, I keep saying that. You keep hearing that. But it is absolutely true.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection last updated its fire hazard severity zone maps in 2007, well before recent record-breaking megafires swept across California. Past mapping focused on geographic hazards such as forests and canyons where fire spreads, according to Daniel Berlant, CalFire’s assistant deputy director. This time, climate hazards are front and center.

“What has changed,” Berlant added, “is these extreme wind events, which carry embers now well past that outer edge [where development intersects with wildlands] into areas that historically were not even designated with a fire hazard level.”

On the maps, which cover all 58 counties, are three color-coded designations: yellow for moderate fire hazard, orange for high hazard and red for very high. This time, CalFire says those zones are likely to be bigger, taking in more Californians and more areas where homes and wildlands meet.

In Santa Rosa, where the Tubbs Fire caused widespread urban damage, homeowner Brian Fies is waiting anxiously for CalFire’s new maps. Fies’ home burned to the ground in 2017, and he wrote a memoir about his loss called A Fire Story. Eventually, he rebuilt on the same land.

“Climate change is making risk a moving target,” Fies said. “Places that used to be safe aren’t safe anymore, and firefighters need to understand and reflect that change.”

New maps will have big impact

Local governments use CalFire’s hazard zones to help decide where new homes and businesses should be approved. Inside these zones, developers must follow the state’s strict and more costly fire safety rules, known as the 7A codes.

Those codes require:

  • Wider roads, more access to water supplies, and more road and directional signs.
  • More costly materials for new home construction, including walls, roofs and eaves that can resist flying embers and heat from fire.
  • Clearing 100 feet of defensible space around buildings; and 
  • Disclosure that a piece of property is within a fire zone when it’s sold.

Local governments have argued that expanding the hazard zones will make it harder to meet state targets for new affordable housing, said Staci Heaton, a regulatory affairs advocate with the Rural County Representatives of California. “The state’s telling [counties] they have to build so many housing units per year,” she said. “Even in the high fire hazard severity zones, they have to strike that balance between fire mitigation and also building these low-income housing units.”

For homeowners within hazard zones, Heaton argued life is likely to be more difficult. Homes in risky areas are more likely to lose their electricity when the wind picks up, she says, because utility companies may target their neighborhoods for planned power shut offs.

And Heaton expects some property owners could find their homes uninsurable. “Once those fire maps get finalized, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more non-renewals,” she said. “We’re already seeing a lot of homeowner insurance non-renewals in our communities.”

‘We want to get the science right’

CalFire officials maintain that they’re focused on precision, not politics, in drawing the new hazard zones, which were anticipated in 2020. “We want to get the science right,” Berlant said. “Unfortunately, building that science into a model has taken us a lot longer than we had originally projected.”

The update will incorporate extreme weather models that didn’t exist when the current maps were developed nearly two decades ago. But critics like Rick Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute, a nonprofit environmental group, say CalFire has long had the capacity to make the maps more accurate and relevant. “To have [the old maps] still hanging around is pretty inexcusable,” he said. Halsey added that the existing maps are both outdated and flawed.

In Santa Rosa, the Tubbs Fire burned the Fountaingrove neighborhood, just as the Hanly Fire had in 1964, and a blaze before that in 1908. “This is what’s so tragic: That area burned twice before, virtually in the same footprint in the previous 100 years,” Halsey said. “And so why that history wasn’t incorporated into the fire severity maps is a mystery to me.”

Approximately 95% of structures seriously damaged in California wildfires from 2013 through 2020 took place inside either federal, state or local fire hazard zones, according to data provided by CalFire. Dave Sapsis, CalFire’s wildland fire scientist in charge of the maps, points out that the state’s hazard maps proved highly accurate in predicting where structures would burn during California’s recent wildfires.

But he also acknowledged that the map for Santa Rosa should have incorporated historical burn risk better. “Our existing model right now works almost all the time except when it doesn’t,” Sapsis said. “And that was a fairly sizable miss.”

Complicating things for the public, CalFire’s maps only show state fire hazard zones and some local hazard zones, but not those designated by the federal government.

Because of climate change, CalFire’s Sapsis expects to update hazard maps more often in the future.  “That hazard is increasing with time,” Sapsis explained. “The fire environment is getting worse. It’s getting drier, it’s getting windier.”

Berlant, CalFire’s assistant deputy director, said the agency would unveil the new maps to county governments “as early as the beginning of next year.”

In Santa Rosa, homeowner Brian Fies says state and local governments should put the map in every mailbox. “In my opinion they should push it,” Fies said. “Not just passively provided, not just it’s available on, you know, Page 312 of the county’s website, but they should push it.”

Fies’ neighborhood wasn’t in a high-risk zone on the CalFire map when he rebuilt. But he’s worried about what the updated maps may reveal. “It seems like nowhere in the western half of North America is there a safe place anymore,” Fies added. “It’s difficult, even in the suburbs.”

For more information about CalFire map updates, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.

Evacuation Orders Lifted for Arlanza Fire on Thanksgiving Morning | Corona, CA

By CAITLIN ANTONIOS | cantonios@scng.com |

PUBLISHED: November 24, 2021 at 8:43 p.m. | UPDATED: November 25, 2021 at 7:17 p.m.

Evacuation orders were lifted Thursday morning after the Arlanza Fire in Riverside jumped containment lines Wednesday night amidst strong Santa Ana wind gusts. Officials began the evacuations after the vegetation fire, which began burning Sunday Nov. 21, grew by about seven acres and began to threaten homes. Road closures on Mitchell Avenue and Valley Drive as well as evacuations on Valley between Misty Ridge Drive and Mitchell began just before 8 p.m.

“The concern is embers are blowing towards homes due to the high winds,” said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department.

A least a dozen homes were evacuated Wednesday night, Railsback said.

Riverside Police and Fire Departments announced Thursday morning that while all evacuation orders were lifted, streets would still be closed at Chadbourne Avenue and Valley Drive, Mitchell Avenue and Valley Drive and Misty Ridge Drive and Valley Drive as crews continue to work in the area.

The fire, pushed by Santa Ana winds, was stopped at 17 acres on Sunday and was 90% contained as of Thursday. As of Thursday evening, the fire was holding at 23 acres.

No residents were injured; one firefighter was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries.

The fire department noted that the smoke will continue to drift well into Saturday, and residents should close windows and doors if they are impacted by it.

The blaze was caused by a vehicle that tried to turn around in mulch.

For more information about current fire statuses, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.

CJ Suppression proudly serves Corona, CA and all surrounding areas.